Neil Harris' men battle back from a goal down to beat Leyton Orient at Priestfield in the EFL Trophy.
Connor Mahoney inspired the Gillingham comeback as they beat nine-man Leyton Orient 2-1 in the first group game of the EFL Trophy.
The visitors took the lead just before half-time when George Moncur’s shot hit the post. It, unfortunately, then rebounded off the back of Glenn Morris before trickling just over the line.
The game was turned on its head in the space of three minutes when Shaq Forde and Brandon Cooper were sent off for violent conduct.
Gills were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute when Mahoney was brought down by Idris El Mizouni. Cheye Alexander took the spot kick and remained composed as he placed it into the bottom right corner, with Brynn diving to his left.
In the 83rd minute, the comeback was complete when Mahoney took the ball beyond an Orient defender to get into the penalty area. He then drilled a low-driven ball towards the back post from the edge of the six-yard box. Macauley Bonne was waiting to put the ball into the back of the net, but a sliding Omar Beckles got ahead of the striker to put it into his own net.
Neil Harris made seven changes to the side that lost at Grimsby as Glenn Morris, Cheye Alexander, Conor Masterson, Max Clark, Ethan Coleman, Jonny Williams and Macauley Bonne came into the starting XI.
Masterson was named captain for the evening, while Joe Gbode, Matty Macarthur and Josh Chambers were among the substitutes.
Joe Pigott had a half-chance in the ninth minute. George Moncur found the striker, who was 20 yards from the goal, and Pigott struck a first-time effort goalward. It went wide of Morris’ post, with the Gillingham goalkeeper having it covered.
Shad Ogie did well to deny Pigott after Rob Hunt’s excellent pass into the penalty area found the feet of the forward. Pigott shot on the turn, but Ogie was on hand to block the effort, sending it behind for a corner.
The visitors forced Morris into a save in the 23rd minute. Pigott laid the ball off for Forde to curl a first-time effort towards the far corner. The shot had plenty of pace on it, but Morris did well to get across and palmed it behind the post for a corner, which came to nothing.
Bonne had a good opportunity in the 37th minute. Gillingham had a free-kick midway inside the Orient half, which was curled into the penalty area. Sol Brynn had come off his line, and Bonne seemingly lost his marker to head goalward. Unfortunately, he could not direct it on target and had strayed offside anyway.
Leyton Orient took the lead in the 43rd minute. Moncur received the ball in a central position and curled a shot towards the bottom left corner. It beat the diving Morris before it hit the post. Unfortunately, it bounced off the back of Morris before trickling just over the goal line, despite Morris’ best attempts to try and claw it away.
Coleman forced Brynn into a save during first-half stoppage time. A ball towards the six-yard box was cleared as far as the former Orient midfielder. He struck a left-footed half-volley but could not make clear contact as he struck it into the ground before Brynn gathered the ball at the second attempt.
HALF-TIME: Gillingham 0-1 Leyton Orient
In the 49th minute, Pigott curled a free-kick over the crossbar from 25 yards out. The visitors won the set piece in a central position, which the striker opted to take. Pigott managed to get his effort over the wall, but it continued to rise as it went over the bar.
Charlie Pegrum fired over from outside the box after Max Sanders switched the play. He spotted Pegrum in space on the right, floating a pass towards the winger. Pegrum cut inside onto his left foot before drilling a powerful effort towards the near post. Fortunately, it fizzed over the crossbar, leaving Morris untested.
In the 62nd minute, Forde was shown a red card for an off-the-ball incident with Max Clark.
Jonny Williams was denied by a brilliant save moments later. A cross into the box was headed as far as the former Welsh international, who watched the ball drop down to him before striking a fierce volley goalward. Brynn had to react quickly to get a fingertip onto the ball to tip it over the crossbar.
From the resulting corner, a ball towards the near post was flicked on by Bonne towards the far corner. It needed someone at the back post to convert it, but there was no one in the vicinity.
Brandon Cooper received his marching orders in the 65th minute. He brought Bonne down on the left touchline before stamping on the Gillingham striker, leaving the referee with no choice but to send him off.
In the 70th minute, Joe Gbode replaced Robbie McKenzie as the Gills went in search of an equaliser with their numerical advantage.
Brynn did well to keep out Alexander’s effort as the hosts continued to take control of the game. A cross into the box was cleared as far as the right-back, who took a touch before shooting. It had plenty of power but was met by the palms of Brynn, who parried it away from the danger.
Gills won a penalty in the 79th minute after brilliant work from Connor Mahoney. The winger did well to put the ball through the legs of one Leyton Orient defender before getting into the penalty area. He got beyond Idris El Mizouni before being brought down by the midfielder, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Alexander took the penalty and kept his cool as he slotted it into the bottom right corner, with Brynn diving the opposite way.
Gills completed the turnaround three minutes later when Omar Beckles put the ball into his own net. Mahoney continued to cause the Orient defence issues as he got beyond a defender before drilling the ball towards the back post. Beckles was forced to make contact with the ball with Bonne waiting to convert and ended up putting it over the line, giving the Gills the lead.
The visitors had two huge chances to take the game to penalties in the final moments of the 90 minutes. They won possession high up the field, and El Mizouni found himself one-on-one. Morris came well off his line to close down the target, and El Mizouni saw his shot well saved. The rebound fell to Ruel Sotiriou, who could only blast over from inside the penalty area.
FULL-TIME: Gillingham 2-1 Leyton Orient
Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Masterson, Ogie, Clark, McKenzie (Gbode 70’), Coleman, Mahoney (Macarthur 87’), J. Williams (Chambers 81’), Clarke (Malone 87’), Bonne (Nadesan 86’)
Unused Substitutes: Turner, Ehmer, Macarthur
Leyton Orient: Brynn, Galbraith, Beckles, Cooper, Hunt (El Mizouni 75’), Pratley, Sanders, Pegrum (Sotiriou 69’), Moncur (Archibald 69’), Forde, Pigott (James 69’)
Unused Substitutes: Howes, Graham, Obiero
Referee: Ben Atkinson
Attendance: 1388 (155)